November 29, 2020

Alumnus, animator premieres ‘Puss in Boots’

Steve Meyer, 1999 graduate and Dreamworks and Disney animator, stands at a Dreamworks campus in Glendale, Calif. PHOTO COURTESY OF STEVE MEYER

Animator and Webster alumnus Steve Meyer said Disney and DreamWorks were never really on his radar. Animation wasn’t even what Meyer had in mind when he started college.

He majored in studio art and media communications, both areas interesting him. Meyer took two animation classes at Webster, but it wasn’t until after graduating that he realized animation was the perfect combination of his interests.

“(Animation) definitely culminates all of my passions perfectly,” Meyer said. “I get to be creative, I get to use art every day and I also get to use a lot of aspects of filmmaking and acting, and all the other things that I love doing.”

After graduating in 1999, Meyer moved to California. He decided to pursue his interest in animation, which he had only dabbled in during college. Meyer spent two years learning Autodesk Maya, an animation program, while working during the day. In 2002, Meyer got his first job in animation on the movie “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.”

While working on the movie, Meyer had the opportunity to learn many elements of digital filmmaking and gained his first mentor, the film’s supervisor, Steven F. Yamamoto.

“His mentoring methods in both animation and filmmaking made me into the animator I am today, and helped develop my eye for what looks right,” Meyer said.

Most recently, Meyer was a character animator for “Puss in Boots,” now in theaters. Meyer said animation teams for movies are organized a couple different ways. In the past, Meyer has worked on movies that used sequence teams. In this case, animators contributed to all characters in their assigned sequence.

For “Puss in Boots,” animators were assigned to character teams and were responsible for every sequence for a specific character, which Meyer liked. He said this setup allowed him to get to know the character better. Meyer worked on the character team responsible for Puss. He also contributed to the characters Kitty and Humpty, but mainly worked with Puss.

He said the director, Chris Miller, described Puss as a mixture of Clint Eastwood, James Bond, Zorro and Indiana Jones.

“Puss was such a fun character to animate,” Meyer said. “Antonio Banderas gives such a great vocal performance and Puss himself is such a favored character of so many people that love the ‘Shrek’ series.”

Meyer started in visual effects before working in animation at Disney. At Disney, he animated action and serious emotional shots. Now at DreamWorks, Meyer has especially enjoyed the opportunity to animate comical scenes. He said the comical shots he has done are the most rewarding.

“The sound of roaring laughter gives me such a rush and fills me so full of pride, and I really hope I get to animate more funny stuff in the future,” Meyer said.

Meyer has always enjoyed comedy and considers what he contributed to Puss to be some of his best work. Meyer said “Puss in Boots” character supervisor, Olivier Staphylas, chose Meyer to animate the funnier parts in “Puss in Boots” after overhearing Meyer tell a story about what Meyer thought, at the time, to be a “real life zombie experience.”

After meeting in fifth grade, Meyer and Kevin Duy became close friends. They attended the same grade school, high school and college. Duy is also a Webster alum.

In fifth grade, they would watch cartoons and draw comic books together after school. They invented two characters, Mugley (drawn by Meyer) and Glue (drawn by Duy). The adventures of Mugley and Glue starred two creatures Duy described as a combination of Alf and Bart Simpson.

Michael Long, professor in the electronic and photographic media department, taught Meyer in Animation I and II, the only two animation classes Webster offered at the time. Long said Meyer’s characters and writing were funny and “off the wall.” At the time, Meyer enjoyed the opportunity to experiment with animation.

“I loved Mike Long’s classes. They allowed me to dip my toes in animation,” Meyer said. “They were so much fun and gave me an appreciation for a medium I hadn’t really thought about”

When Meyer was enrolled in an animation class, Long said Meyer created a couple characters and did a project outside of class.

“I knew he was really into (animation) because not all students will take off and do projects on their own that weren’t assigned,” Long said. “I don’t think that he thought he was going to do a career this way.”

Duy said Meyer didn’t get a job at Disney right after college. He said Meyer is a “self-made success story,” and worked hard to get where he is today.

“I’m so freaking proud of him and what he’s become,” Duy said. “He’s in the major leagues on the best team there is in the field of animation.”

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